Youth Villages stories

University of Memphis Athletics department with wrapped presents

Holiday Heroes Get An Assist From Memphis Athletics

Dec 7, 2021 | Blog

It was early December and final exams week was on the horizon for the University of Memphis student-athletes. However, they took time out of their study schedule to help with the Youth Villages Holiday Heroes program.

On Dec. 2 in the UofM’s Hardaway Hall of Fame, more than 30 Tigers student-athletes and athletics department staff got together to spread holiday cheer to more than 40 families served by Youth Villages. They did so by wrapping Christmas gifts for those families in the Memphis area.

“We are so grateful to the University of Memphis Athletics department for supporting 42 kids through our Holiday Heroes program this year,” said Katie Jones, Youth Villages Director of Development for West Tennessee. “Because of their generosity, kids in Memphis will wake up on Christmas morning with gifts they wished for under their tree. We look forward to continuing our engagement with the Memphis Athletics department!”

The UofM student-athletes and staff – along with Youth Villages development staff – combined to wrap nearly 225 gifts.

The wrapping party event is part of the ongoing partnership between Youth Villages and Memphis Athletics. According to UofM Senior Associate Athletics Director for Student-Athlete Welfare Marlon Dechausay, the UofM student-athletes jumped at the opportunity to serve the Memphis community through Youth Villages’ Holiday Heroes.

“Part of our strategic plan with the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee was to give back to the community,” Dechausay said. “When this opportunity was presented to us – and (Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics) Laird (Veatch) and his family are doing a lot with Youth Villages – it seemed like the perfect fit to participate in the Holiday Heroes program.

“You can see it from the number of student-athletes participating and the energy in the room today. They are excited about providing opportunities for those that don’t have as much as they get.”

The Youth Villages-UofM Christmas wrapping party is one that not only brings joy to the families that receive the gifts but also to the student-athletes who participated in the Dec. 2 event.

“I love doing this because I want to see the kids smile, and especially the ones from Youth Villages,” UofM football’s Quindell Johnson said. “I love going to Youth Villages every time we get a chance to go. Just seeing them smile makes me smile. As long as they are smiling, that’s all that matters at the end of the day. Their happiness makes me happy.”